Church on long road to renewal, says Martin
THE country's second most senior cleric, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, has insisted the Catholic Church is on a path of renewal but admitted it would be a "lengthy journey".
Addressing the opening ceremony of the 50th Eucharistic Congress at the RDS in Dublin, Dr Martin said the past 50 years of the Irish Catholic Church had been marked by a "darker side".
Remembering "all those who suffered abuse and who still today bear the mark of that abuse", Dr Martin said that the church had engaged in "criminal abuse and neglect of those weakest in our society".
Children, who should have been the "object of the greatest care, the greatest support and Christ-like love", he said, had suffered.
"In a spirit of repentance, let us remember each of them in the silence of our hearts," he added.
The church in Ireland was on the path to renewal, the archbishop told the audience, but warned it would not happen overnight.
At an earlier press conference, Dr Martin refused to comment on whether the decision of embattled All-Ireland Primate Cardinal Sean Brady to remain in office had cast a shadow on the congress.
Cardinal Brady has faced repeated calls to consider his position after the broadcasting of a BBC documentary focusing on the handling of child abuse concerns relating to paedophile cleric Brendan Smyth.
"I am not commenting on individuals, that is not what the congress is about," he said.
"Cardinal Brady is committed to a path of renewal," he added.
Dr Martin also refused to comment on the fact that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is playing a leading role at the congress, is embroiled in controversy over an alleged payout policy of €20,000 to encourage paedophile priests to quit the priesthood.
"I have read the stories in the newspapers but I know nothing about it," he said.
Archbishop Dolan, who is now a cardinal and the head of the archdiocese in New York, was appointed in March 2010 by Pope Benedict to lead the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland to examine the four archdioceses here.
The investigators sent from Rome in the wake of child sex-abuse scandals were to report their findings directly to Pope Benedict.
During the opening ceremony, a "healing stone", evocative of the stone that covered Jesus's tomb, to commemorate the victims of the clerical abuse scandal, was unveiled.
The granite stone is inscribed with a poem written by a survivor of clerical abuse.
As the ceremony got under way, a small number of protests started outside the RDS, including one by abuse survivors and another by an LGBT group.
About 10 people representing the Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) group and survivors of the Magdalene Laundries demonstrated to highlight their disgust at the refusal of Cardinal Brady to resign.
SOCA spokesperson John Kelly said they wanted to send a clear message to the Vatican that no longer would people be able to get "immunity from crimes that happen in this country".